Author: J. K. Rowling
Publishing Date: September 2014 (original in 1997)
Almost everyone has read the Harry Potter books, if not even more than once, but I am just now getting around to joining this literary fandom. I’ve always loved Harry Potter from the movies, but as a kid I was not allowed to read them. Clearly, I’ve been over 18 for a while now, but I’ve been so painfully busy with my business and every other book I’ve been reading I just had not gotten to it. This being said, I believe that such a well known book deserves an insanely deep review. I probably have a hundred little post-its throughout the book. I can, however, jump ahead and, as suspected, confirm the book was way better than the movie. Let’s begin!
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
From the very first sentence of the book we are given a clear insight into who and how the Dursley’s are. By gosh, just 5 pages in J.K. Rowling confirms that Mr. Dursley doesn’t even “approve of imagination.” The Dursley’s are Harry’s Aunt and Uncle who were asked to take care of Harry since his parents had been killed by Voldemort. Rowling doesn’t just introduce us to the Dursley’s, though.
We quickly meet Professor McGonagall in the form of a nosy cat, and Professor Dumbledore before the first chapter is even out. Dumbledore is quick to admit he lacks powers that Voldemort, the Dark Lord, has. McGonagall wonders over how “You-Know-Who,” a rather annoying substitute for Voldemort’s name, could have killed so many people, and yet been outdone by a child. A few pages later we meet Hagrid, a sentimental, sweet, (half) GIANT, Teddy Bear! He comes with baby Harry in hands, sobbing away at the death of Harry’s parents, and the idea of saying good-bye to Harry.
As we keep reading we get a good look into Harry’s home life once he’s older. The Dursley’s have always treated him like he was a burden. He slept in a cupboard under the stairs, was never included in family photos, only ever got given Dudley (the Dursley’s plump and spoiled son’s) hand-me-downs, as far as clothes go, and was once gifted a coat hanger for his birthday. As far as his home-life was concerned, there never really was anything very homely about it. They even went as far as to teach him their “first rule for a quiet life with the Dursley’s” was “Don’t ask questions.” (Though I must say, I will forever remember “Dudley as a pig in a wig.”)
Personally I don’t see why it would make much of a difference even if he did ask questions since they’d lie anyway. Do you need an example? Oh, how about telling a young lad that his parents died in a car crash, which we all know IS NOT true.
During an unexpected surprise trip to the Zoo for Dudley’s birthday, after having found out Harry’s baby-sitter, an old, cat-loving hag had broken her leg and couldn’t watch him, we find out that Harry has a gift. He’s able to speak to snakes. Whaaaattt? That’s right. In the wizarding world of Harry Potter there are those who can speak to snakes!
Weird things have always happened when Harry got upset, or frustrated. After his bully of a cousin, Dudley, pushes him out of the way to see a snake that had ignored him earlier but was now responsive to Harry, Harry gets angry and suddenly the glass window of the enclosure vanishes knocking Dudley and his arrogant friend into the enclosure after the snake slithers its way out and “Thanksss” Harry! Of course, this anomaly somehow translates into being his fault and he’s later punished for it by Mr. Dursely.
The Dursley’s were abusive to Harry in how they treated him. I was genuinely surprised by the amount of compassion Harry had regardless of his circumstances. The Dursley’s spoke about Harry as if he wasn’t there, couldn’t hear, and didn’t matter. Even to the extent that when it came time to prepare for the school year and Dudley got accepted into an academy they bought him new uniforms but gave Harry Dudley’s old clothes and just dyed them in hopes no one else would notice he didn’t actually have a uniform. It’s as if they had the mindset that their money was too good to be spent on him.
One evening Harry receives a letter that Mr. Dursley won’t let him read. After having flooded the house, the fireplace, and surrounding their house with owls, Mr. Dursley transitions Harry from the Cupboard to Dudley’s largest bedroom – proof they knew that his living conditions were abusive. When the letters don’t stop, Mr. Dursley loads everyone up and drives to a hotel. Unfortunately for him, the hotel’s front desk was soon flooded with letters addressed to Harry, too. On Harry’s Eleventh Birthday, everything changes. Thanks to Mr. Dursley, he uprooted the family from the hotel, packed a gun, and placed the family in an old run-down shack in the middle of no where, where he believes no letters will be delivered. To his surprise, one was hand-delivered by our very own Rubius Hagrid – aforementioned giant teddy bear!
Hagrid brings Harry a birthday cake, the first Harry has probably ever had, and then hands Harry a letter that will forever change his life inviting him to the school for Witchcraft and Wizardry – Hogwarts. Hagrid begins to open up to Harry a bit about who Harry is, and when he finds out that Harry has been lied to all these years by the Dursley’s he becomes enraged. Harry’s parents had been killed Halloween night by Lord Voldemort, not by a car crash as the Dursley’s had told Harry. When Hagrid is challenged by Dursley he pulls out his umbrella and in an attempt to turn Dudley into a pig gives him a pig tail. Tsk, Tsk Hagrid! He’s not supposed to be doing any magic as he reveals he had his wand snapped years ago and was expelled from Hogwarts.
After Dursley puts up a fight about Harry going to Hogwarts, Hagrid puts him in his place and brings Harry along notifying Headmaster Dumbledore that he’s collected Harry and is taking him to get his school supplies in Diagon Alley. Before entering the Alley, Hagrid takes Harry through The Leaky Cauldron where we meet one of his professors, Professor Quirrell, and some admirers.
When we are introduced to this world within our world Harry began to consider this may be an elaborate prank, but “Harry had known the Dursleys had no sense of humor.” Before Harry can get his supplies, though, they have to stop by Gringotts, the only bank in the wizarding world, run by Goblins. Apparently his parents left him quite a fortune. Hagrid also had a package he needed to retrieve from vault 712!
Fun Fact: Albus Dumbledore was asked to be the Minister of Magic but refused the position so that he could remain at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Whilst Harry is traveling around to collect his school supplies we are introduced to a new character. Draco Malfoy, a white haired, arrogant, entitled prat. “Harry was strongly reminded of Dudley.” Apparently the two boys would be attending Hogwarts together in just a short period of time. Before the day was done, Harry collected all of his supplies and was even gifted an Owl for his pet to bring to school (which was quite useful for sending notes and letters.)
Once Harry gets into King’s Cross Station he meets a red-haired family known as the Weasley’s. He was unaware how his life would forever change after meeting them. We meet Molly Weasley, mother, Fred and George Weasley, twins, Ron Weasley, future best friend, and Ginny Weasley, not yet involved in the story. They board the train, and off to Hogwarts we go! The rest of the journey you’ll have to experience for yourself by picking up the book.
One of the things that I greatly loved about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is that it was so intricately detailed. Knowing “most” of the story from the movies, and seeing details I have been missing out on, I can appreciate all the little things she includes. She is so beautifully gifted at wrapping up a story with a beautiful bow and taking you on a journey from beginning to end.
I love that she was so willing to explain magic to our Muggle minds, going as far as to express that Harry’s cloak of invisibility didn’t stop him from being solid. She tells us that the “wand chooses the wizard,” and that most bad magic folk seem to come from House Slytherin. (Not all are bad, because I’m a Ravenclaw-Slytherin Hybrid.) She even goes to the point of explaining their monetary system of Galleons and other coinage. After I did the math it turns out that Harry’s wand was $175! I guess instead of the latest smart-watch we could all upgrade to a wand… 😉
Fun Fact: There are 42 stair cases at Hogwarts.
Rowling pulls in many real-life struggles into her story such as: racism with the “pure-blood” ideology, family with the bonding of house members, Harry’s insecurities and fear of rejection, and bullying from Dudley, Draco, and Snape. We experience the in-depth character flaws of normal humanity in most characters, one for example in that Draco Malfoy was a habitual liar and attention seeker due to the weight of parental expectations and toughness. If she didn’t have enough details as is she brought in an ENTIRE fictional sport, explained to us how it worked, and even expressed that a game had once gone on for an entire three months.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is what everyone has known for quite some time… J. K. Rowling is a literary Queen, and has a genuine gift. I know that she worked tirelessly on these novels, and wasn’t even published right away, but she created a masterpiece that I’m so excited to finally be a part of! Thank you for taking the time to read this insanely long review, but I felt that such a good book deserved my time and effort!